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Three Michigan players to watch against Penn State this weekend

Michigan’s linebackers will have to step up against Penn State’s rushing attack.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 Michigan at Indiana Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s a top-10matchup this weekend with the Michigan Wolverines hosting Penn State in what should be easily the best stadium atmosphere of the season.

Halfway through the season already, we have a good idea of what each team will look like and who the key players are that will decide the game. Here are a few Michigan players to watch this weekend.

LB Junior Colson

Linebacker has been the clear weak spot of Michigan’s defense this season. There is not much experience or depth with Nikhai Hill-Green sidelined for the first half of the season. This will be the second level’s biggest test this season thanks to Penn State’s intimidating rush attack.

Freshman running backs Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen have combined for 766 yards on 6.4 yards per carry and eight touchdowns this season. Colson, Michigan’s best linebacker by far, has shown better aggressiveness against the run lately and will need to attack the right gaps to keep these two under control.

DB Mike Sainristil

Sainristil will also play a large role in stopping the run, and his tackling prowess will be needed to bring down Singleton and Allen before they can break off chunk runs. Sainristil will also match up against Penn State’s biggest receiving threat, slot receiver Parker Washington. While he has yet to find the end zone this season, Washington is leading the team in receptions and yards.

The transition for Sainristil from wide receiver to cornerback this season has exceeded all reasonable expectations, and this week he’ll have to contribute against both the pass and run to stop the Nittany Lions’ offense.

OT Trente Jones

Another freshman that has emerged for Penn State this season is defensive end Dani Dennis-Sutton, a former five-star who is leading the defense with three sacks this year. Paired with Maryland transfer Demeioun Robinson, another former blue-chip prospect, Penn State’s pass rush can be gnarly.

In his first year starting for Michigan, Jones has shown he can move people in the run game but still has some work to do in pass protection. If he is able to play this weekend — he was injured last week against Indiana — he’ll need to hold up to give J.J. McCarthy time to find open receivers and avoid putting Michigan in third and long situations.